Silk Road relics under threat

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Suoyang City ruins stand in the desert as a witness to the ups and downs of the Silk Road over the centuries. [Photo/China Daily]

Ancient city ruins in China's western deserts battle the toll of time as officials and conservators seek to protect and preserve the heritage of the old Silk Road, Sun Yuanqing reports from Gansu province.

Editor's Note: The Silk Roads: The initial Section of the Silk Roads, the Routes Network of Tian-shan Corridor has been nominated to be inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage list. The result of this international application involving China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan will be released later this week during the 38th session of the World Heritage Committee currently being held in Doha, Qatar. The application included 33 historical sites, which includes 22 in four of China's provincial-level administrative regions: Shaanxi, Henan and Gansu provinces, and the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region (with exclusion of two sites on the route, which have already been listed as World Heritage sites - the Mogao Caves and Longmen Grottoes) plus eight in Kazakhstan and three in Kyrgyzstan.

The air smells of sand. The sky has turned a murky, reddish color. The wind has become so violent that it is impossible to keep our eyes open or our feet firmly on the ground. The sand, whipped up by the wind, strikes the window sharply. This administration office of the Suoyang City ruins in Gansu province in Northwest China has become a little desert in itself. The only peaceful creature is the white puppy that the staff members have adopted, one of the few distractions they have in the desert.

Scattered through the Gobi desert, the Suoyang City ruins, along with other sites on a network of routes of Eurasian trade and cultural exchanges, has survived sandstorms like this for more than 1,000 years. Once the center of ancient civilization, the Silk Road waystations have been neglected, discovered, excavated and now await rediscovery.

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